Note To Maryland Democrats: Get Serious About The High Cost Of College

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We’ve got a two-part problem here:

  • Student debt that burdens recent college graduates, as well as those who will graduate this spring and in years to come.
  • Sky-high and still rising college costs. That includes tuition, fees, room and board.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and two dozen other senators are taking the lead on the debt part of the equation. Sen. Warren and others introduced yesterday the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, a bill that would allow borrowers to refinance student loans to a lower interest rate. This bill, if it passes, will not solve the student debt crisis, but it would be a start.

As long as the cost of going to college remains prohibitively high, we’re constantly creating more student debt.

Maryland’s three gubernatorial candidates have all addressed the issue, but feebly. Simply slowing the rate of increase in the cost of college is not exactly a solution. As long as college costs are high, the debt problem will keep getting worse.

Seems to me the real answer is something more radical. Like start reducing the cost of tuition, or providing much more means-based student aid.

You want a really radical idea? Free college tuition. It’s been done before. It should be tried again. We could start on a limited basis, for instance free tuition at Maryland community colleges for any student graduating in the top 25 percent of any high school class in Maryland. That’s just one possibility to illustrate the concept. The fundamental idea is, we’ve got to make college affordable again for middle-class and working-class students.

Otherwise, more and more students are going to pass on college because it’s just too expensive. That decision might limit them for the rest of their lives, and it will definitely inhibit the growth and competitiveness of the American economy. Not everyone needs to or wants to go to college. But everyone who has the ability and the desire to do college work should have the opportunity.

Just my opinions.

— John Hayden

 

The Student Debt Crisis

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This week’s email brings a reminder from Maggie Thompson at the organization Higher Ed Not Debt about an issue that remains under the radar for much of the population:

“This week we hit a milestone—but it’s not a good one. It’s been two years since the amount of student debt held in this country hit $1 trillion dollars. Americans hold more student debt than credit card debt and auto loans combined.”  — Maggie Thompson

Everyone knows about credit card debt and mortgage issues, but the significance of student debt is still emerging. Higher education student debt should be at the top of the list of issues addressed by Democratic candidates in this year’s elections. Recent graduates (and also students who studied for several years but didn’t graduate) are well aware of the problem, and they could use some help.

The burden of student debt might not be so bad, if more and better jobs were available for young adults. But the fact is, graduates face a stagnant job market and declining wages. How do you pay off student debt and start a family on Walmart wages?

Higher Ed Not Debt is organizing events across the country to put the spotlight on student debt. For more information see the Higher Ed Not Debt website.

— John Hayden